Friday, June 26, 2015

Happy Marriage Equality Day!

At 9:05 a.m. CST, I walked into my office building’s lobby and saw the scrolling headline on the TV: “BREAKING: SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS MARRIAGE EQUALITY” and cried the whole way up the elevator. In disbelief, I checked my phone for articles, thinking maybe I’d misread the TV at a glance, and I couldn’t find anything online for another 10 minutes. But once I’d booted my computer and jumped on Facebook, the headlines flooded my feed, and tears streamed down my face for the rest of the hour. I was so unexpectedly overwhelmed with joy. I’d never before experienced such a strong reaction to happy news, and though I actually support marriage abolition, the news of marriage equality hit me hard.

I continued to break out into tears throughout the day as new articles, photos, and art crossed my feed. Mid-afternoon I posted a status half-jokingly asking the cost of tattoos because I now wanted a rainbow. A few hours later, my roommate texted to say she had an appointment that evening with her tattoo artist and to ask if I wanted to get one, too. Yes, let’s do it. She’d been thinking of getting her next tattoo, and my post spurred her to make the call.

I left work a little early to go to happy hour at Sue Ellen’s because I really wanted to share the joy in a group setting but didn’t have the spoons for the huge event later that evening. An hour and a half and a single drink was the perfect way to wind down the day and bask in the warm glow all around me. Then I walked back to my car to go to the tattoo studio.

The drive was swifter than expected, so I arrived a few minutes early and waited. And waited. I’m told that artist time is like that. An hour after my appointment time, I got to talk to the artist about what I wanted. I’d googled “cute rainbow art” that afternoon and found two possible drawings I liked and a third with colors I liked. I chose the first drawing, a half rainbow with a smiling cloud, and requested bright colors instead of the pastels its creator had chosen.

I had it tattooed just behind my left ear. It was my first tattoo, so I didn’t know what to expect in terms of pain, but I figured that a lifetime of migraine made this a reasonable gamble on my pain tolerance. It wasn’t that bad. We had to stop a couple times because my body was shaky, adrenaline or whatever, and it did hurt really bad right against the ear, but the skull bit was alright.

The healing scabby part sucked, but I survived. It brings me joy. People immediately asked if I was planning on my second, but I think that may be a ways off. I have some ideas, but interrupting training for healing is a big thing to plan for, and this is the first time in my life I’ve ever wanted something enough to have it done permanently.

I'll add a photo when I'm able.

Update: Two months later, I still love it.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

NSV: Non-Scale Victory

NSV is an acronym popular in fitness circles that stands for “Non-Scale Victory.” It’s used to highlight and share health and fitness achievements independent of one’s body weight, since weight is never entirely within a person’s control, is no measure of health or fitness, and does not accurately reflect fat loss and/or muscle gain.

Mine, for example, has been largely steady this year, but pants that hadn’t fit in 18 months sometimes slide off my hips without a belt now, I have to tear off the sleeves from some of my favorite t-shirts, and I’m busting out of my favorite dresses, resigning myself to donating them elsewhere. My favorite shorty shorts no longer squeeze my belly uncomfortably but my thighs instead.

Though NSV’s can include improved run times and increased weight lifting ability, they typically take the form of seemingly mundane tasks that one could not previously accomplish, as a way of focusing on functional improvement in daily life.
My NSV’s of late focus on functional strength: more easily lifting and moving heavy or awkward boxes and furniture alone and with help in preparation for my upcoming cross-town move.

Sunday saw my most recent and amusing NSV: Though I sat in an aisle seat at the movie theater, I didn't particularly feel like standing and stepping out to let the little kid and dad out to use the restroom and totally miss all of the ‪#‎raptorsquad‬. So I tucked my knees to my chest and with surprising ease lifted my body up and back with my hands on the armrests.

In the past, I and the people around me have marveled at my ability as a casual outdoorswoman to keep up with seasoned hikers on difficult, lengthy, treacherous trails. One afternoon I went for a nature walk and was unexpectedly whisked away by a Korean hiking club for 5 hours. I also signed up for a weekend hiking trip not knowing it was on an expert-level trail; we were told the bus would meet us on the other side, so the only way out was up and over. Sometimes I hurt and I cried, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other, awestruck that my legs didn’t just give out. Years later I joined acquaintances known for their superhero strength and radical outdoorsing on a failed hike to find some caves while my friends took a nap; though it wound up being emotionally taxing, I kept up.

A happier NSV: This year I did my first headstand as an adult, and I didn’t hurt myself.

What are your NSV’s?

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Journey and Goal Setting

Fitness is a journey. You don’t ever reach one goal and just stop; you set a faster goal, a longer goal, a stronger goal, or a different type of goal altogether. This post is about my changing goals and myriad accomplishments.

I never intended to become a runner, but I joined a women’s walking group in April 2010 and we ended up peer pressuring each other into registering for a 10k race together. In eight weeks I used the plan “Day 1: Run as far as you can; Day 2: Repeat” to train from zero to run my first 10k faster than I expected in 1:16:19 on a day 85°F and 80 percent humidity, no less. I went on that fall to run my only sub-60 10k and sub-30 5k.

A lot of runners train to get faster and better at their chosen distances. I’ve never since been able to hit that 10-minute pace I so enjoyed and took pride in. Sometimes it gets me down, especially on days that I feel strong and swift and discover at the end of a run that I’m only hitting about a 13-minute pace. I find that I prefer to train for lots of new events with only a goal of finishing. I want to try everything.

In 2011 I ran my first obstacle race, the Warrior Dash, and finished in a respectable 00:40:51 after long lines at each obstacle and later that season attempted my first half marathon (13.1 miles). I was injured and under-trained for the half, and inclement weather shortened the course, but I finished and set a distance PR of about 4 miles that day.

Texas saw a dreadful summer in 2012, making it sort of an off year for me, though I did a couple mud runs with friends. That might have been the year I sprained my foot early on the course and walked the rest of it with my friends’ expressing their relief at not struggling to keep up with me.

I ran my first trail race in 2013, a brutal 10k that kicked my butt, but I loved every excruciating minute of it and its scenic vistas. The following month I proudly earned my first DNF at the Savage Race obstacle run. Choosing to DNF is one of the best life choices I’ve ever made.

At the end of 2013, I ran/slogged through a 15.2-mile Spartan Beast obstacle race. I went into it believing I could *maybe* make it through 9 miles and would definitely drop out. But the weather was glorious and I framed it in my mind as a beautiful afternoon hike. I finished in just under 7 hours and just barely before dark.

In 2014, I ran more races than any sane person should, including a dozen in May alone, and suffered several months of ITBS. I also ran two complete half marathons. Despite the pain and how much it slowed me down, I worked my way up to running for three hours straight. Running fast may get all the recognition, but running for three hours, even slowly, is no fucking joke.

At my second half marathon last year, I’d set a 3-hour time goal and was sad to come in at 3:04:00 until I looked back at how miserable and lonely and unmotivated I was at the start of the race that morning; the long, lonely, empty, shade-free course; the overuse knee injury that had plagued me and inhibited my training for 6 months; the last mile I’d spent limping and sobbing in agony and seriously contemplating dropping for help; the obnoxiously steep uphill final stretch; and all the money I’d raised for LLS. All things considered, that 3:04 was effing badass and an 18 minute improvement over my first half marathon less than two months prior.

I had spent most of the year with my heart set on completing the Spartan Trifecta, mostly just to prove I could, but I had such a rough time at the 2013 Beast and so much knee pain at the 2014 Sprint and Super that I ultimately decided not to go for the 2014 Beast and Trifecta, having already proven I could do all three within six months, even if I wouldn’t get the recognition for it. Giving up that goal was very rewarding in that it alleviated a lot of anxiety and dread and saved me a few hundred bucks, too.

For four years I’ve wanted to train for and run a full marathon (26.2 miles), but last year’s painful setbacks have me re-evaluating that goal. Last summer showed me how awful it is to log long miles in the heat for a fall race, so if I want to do a marathon, I’ll have to find a springtime event and commit to training through winter. This year I’m giving triathlon a go instead.

I like to give myself reasonable time goals to meet. My first tri goal was two hours, and I came in at 1:54. I have a bad habit of playing it down and telling people I’m only doing sprint tri’s for now, but there’s nothing easy about two hours of continuous cardio.

I’d thought I would go for a half Ironman (70.3 miles) this fall with an acquaintance but realized after the first tri how difficult that would be and decided that I am not interested in training for a 7-hour torture fest. I am, however, looking at an International distance triathlon in September, which is a distance twice as long as the Sprint, though hopefully I can get my time down.
So I’ve unexpectedly beat goals, met goals, fallen short, and found fulfillment in re-examining and throwing out other goals, which is an important ability to cultivate for one’s peace of mind.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Personal Journey: Setbacks and Silver Linings

It's been a rough several weeks. Free access to the office fitness center was suddenly and unexpectedly cut off at the beginning of the month. Building management never said a word in advance that their newly built fitness center would charge a membership fee, and it's up-front for the year rather than month-to-month, so my only indoor workout option is just gone.

However, lots of my coworkers are very interested in the new center and in the same boat financially, so a few organized a poll to find out how many employees would commit to using the center three times a week if our company subsidized the cost. Yesterday they turned in a list of more than 60 interested out of a total 200 employees. Our company rents 6 percent of the building space and may have some sway to get a group rate from building management, so fingers are crossed.

I've also been missing running and other workouts partly because I'm busy preparing to move at the end of the month, but/and the rec center by my new house is two years old, has a sauna, and costs half as much at the office center. So if I can tough it out two more weeks, I can get back to indoor workouts.

Yesterday was my first run in two weeks. We had a long, cool spring and then it suddenly got hot with no transition period. I'm terribly sensitive to the heat and literally afraid to leave my house, haven't biked in a month. I ran 3.57 miles of trail with a group—struggled, but did it—and then walked/ran 1.65 miles back to my car, including jumping a chain-link fence so I could walk through a well-lit baseball field instead of down the unlit country road with a blind turn.

I've also been adding more produce and homemade meals to my life, which is a challenge for me as I’m not much a fan of cooking, and I'm really proud of my determination and success with weekly meal prep. It’s mostly simple stews and rice, but it’s leading to less processed foods, fast food, and frozen meals, as well as a happier tummy.

Earlier this year I was dreading the thought of going dairy-free and/or gluten-free for the purpose of an elimination diet to determine why my stomach seemed to be hell-bent on my destruction, but I’ve eased up on spicy foods and found relief.

Just another entry in “fitness and health are a journey, not a destination.”

Monday, June 8, 2015


A post for posterity about my recent stateside hashenanigans.

After returning from Korea, I considered hashing in Dallas but spent several years failing to attend. One member emailed me invitations weekly for over two years. Then an Amtgarder spent another year or two trying to get me to come out. I needed a break and associated the hobby with severe depression, binge drinking and poor life choices.

Fully four years after leaving the ROK, I was finally ready to check out the Dallas hash. My first run with them was their 300th run, a Spartan themed event. I learned what an urban hash is, and I hated the trail. I’d never before hashed without climbing walls or fences or shiggy. Running on concrete just sucks.

The lengthy beer stops were new to me and circle was fun, though I’m sad to have forgotten so many songs. I enjoyed it well enough to return two weeks later, not having enough energy to attend weekly late-night workweek social events.

An acquaintance from Korea spontaneously invited me to hash with him in Tulsa at the Red Dress Run, which I’d forgotten about for several weeks until the Dallas hash. We’d met on a weekend trip in Korea, and though he’d never hashed there, he’s been doing it for two years now stateside.

It sounded like fun, so I drove up there for the weekend and camped out Friday with a bunch of hashers I’d never met at Bull Creek peninsula on Skiatook Lake. The ground was wet, but we were lucky enough to have cool, dry weather. We had burgers, hot dogs, and beers; a few of us swam in the muddy lake; we watched a glorious sunset; and later I spun some fire toys for the group. I missed out on the midnight trail because I’d already crawled into bed and was too tired and comfortable to get up and dress for it. I figured I was better off saving my energy for the next day’s trail.

Saturday was the annual Red Dress Run, wherein 60 hashers ALL wore red dresses and ran for charity. Our event registration fees bought us t-shirts, THHH cups, beer koozies, beer, snacks, and pizza. Trail wound through Tulsa, included two bar stops and additional beer checks, and jaunts across town via party busses between stretches of trail.

Many hashers balked when trail included a jump into a concrete drainage trench, but I was filled with glee at the prospect of finally encountering shiggy like we had in Korea. The event began at 2, I think we started trail close to 3, and we finally returned for circle about 7 p.m. I wanted to join the on-after at a local bar but was way too tired and crashed at a friend’s home instead, woke to a horrific hangover, and, disappointed, skipped the planned brunch.

The drive home was lovely, and I attended my first NoDUHHH (North of Dallas Hash) the very next day. Great crowd, good fun, great food.

On on!